In real estate, it’s common to hear people say, “Your network is your net worth” and other one-liners that basically show how important is is to make connections. A good network will make every aspect of investing better and probably more profitable. However, this often leads investors to act a little “crazy” when they go to industry events because they think they have to meet the biggest players in the room. When they do, they shake the individual’s hand, introduce themselves, and then either become completely speechless or start asking for favors. Neither strategy will likely get that person in your network.
If you really want to get a “big player” in your corner, create a situation where you are prepared to make an impression. You are not likely to become best friends in the 30 seconds you have at a meeting to shake that person’s hand. However, if you set the stage for future interaction, you can strategically add that person to your network over time.
First, prepare something to say.
If you are going to be nervous about meeting someone, make sure you have something to fall back on so you do not become tongue-tied. When I go to meetings, I may meet more than 100 people in the space of a morning. Unfortunately, if you are one of those 100 people and you did not say anything to me, I probably won’t remember who you are even though I likely took your card. If you told me something interesting and wrote it on your card, however, I probably will.
Second, be ready to ask a question.
This is really important if you are trying to create a networking relationship with a very busy person, especially one who may be a keynote speaker or a celebrity in the room. Be prepared with a question that is relevant to that individual’s expertise and shows that you are an informed investor who probably has insights of your own. For example, you might ask something about their market or why they made a particular decision on a deal. Remember to keep it brief, though. You are not giving a speech.
Once you have asked your question, take their card, thank them for their time, and step away. This is really important! They probably do not have time to answer that question right now and, furthermore, you should be networking with other people also. However, now that you have asked the question you have the perfect reason to follow up and they are far more likely to remember you. If they do answer your question, be prepared to follow up anyway with another one. It does not have to be something really deep because you are not trying to get free consulting or take advantage of them. Just use the question as a good way to make an impression and create an avenue for follow-up.
Third, follow up.
A lot of people go to events and work really hard to meet others in their industry, then never follow up. Follow-up is essential! It is just as important as the introduction itself, because the introduction really is not much good without the follow-up. You can follow up with another question or with a request for an appointment, but don’t be afraid to ask for things! You will not get anything if you do not ask for it.
Often, a lot of people tell me later, “I was afraid to ask you for this or that.” If I had known, I probably would have accommodated them, but I didn’t know. If you are unsure or shy, just ask if you can contact their assistant and make an appointment to speak later. Most will tell you to go ahead and do it, but the best time to make that request is face-to-face. Once you have their go-ahead, you now have a way to keep working on that networking relationship at a later date.
Secrets for Effective Follow-Up
Once you get really good at networking, you will start meeting so many people at events you will have trouble keeping track. I always say the best way to keep up is to get a card from everyone and give a card to everyone, but there are a few other “secrets” to keeping in touch with people as well. Here are three that work for me:
I publish a newsletter. I use my newsletter to help get people into my system so I’m building a relationship with them even when we’re not interacting directly. I ask everyone if they would like to receive my newsletter when I get their card.
I offer helpful content. Putting a few really valuable, helpful articles or other information on your website is a great way to encourage people to remember you and go to your website or reach out in the future. Be sure to mention that content when you exchange cards.
I am clear about the opportunity I represent. In my business, we are always looking for deals. That is a really valuable thing for me to mention in every networking situation because lots of investors have good deals, are looking for investment or lending opportunities, or need partners. I always make sure people I meet know we are looking for deals and, if they are interested, how to find out what types of deals meet our criteria